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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)

TITLE: The Shelter
By Cheryl Harrison


The file in my hand seemed heavier than the others. My heart ached for the family it represented. I exited the Sanctuary and breathed out a sigh of exhaustion.

I wonder how many will come today?

Tears stung my eyes. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.

Stop it, don't you dare cry! You have to be strong for them. Oh Lord, I need your help!

I pushed past a throng of people and entered my office. The pile of unfinished work on my desk increased two-fold while I was gone. I scanned the blanket of notes taped to my credenza until I located the one I needed.

Ah, there it is... I hope she is home. These people need a safe place to rest.

It didn't seem possible that only a week had passed since Hurricane Katrina breathed her fury through Mississippi and Louisiana.

My mind drifted back to the day following landfall. The day our Pastor announced that the church would become a shelter for hurricane victims. We agreed, unlocked the doors and waited. At first, only a few people trickled in. We fed them and provided a safe place for them to sleep. It was not long; however, before word got out. Soon the shelter was running at full blast.

Our little community rose to the occasion. Volunteers arrived. The church annex became a fully stocked pantry, the church kitchen cranked out three meals a day, and Sunday School classrooms transformed into bedrooms. Donations flew in one door and out the other. Church members worked long hours to meet needs and Everyone was growing weary.

My thoughts returned to the young couple waiting in the Sanctuary. They were tired and afraid. The uncertainty of the condition of "home" was beginning to set in. Nobody was allowed to enter their neighborhood until the water had receded. My goal was to place them in a volunteer's home instead of the shelter. I dialed the number, but she did not pick up. I left a message on her answering machine and scribbled a few notes on their file.

I wonder if they would like some coffee while they wait? I sure could use some caffeine.

I turned around just in time to see a huge group of people enter the lobby. Their weary faces and the condition of their clothing indicated the end of a long journey.

I grabbed another a stack of applications, breathed out a prayer and put on a happy face.

"Hi," I smiled, "Welcome to First Baptist Church. Follow me and we'll get you started. Are you hungry? Can I get you something to drink?"

This scene repeated itself many times during the next three weeks. Ironically, toward the end, our shelter closed down and all of us fled from Hurricane Rita. The evacuation was treacherous. It was an emotional time, but God spared us. The church sustained minimal damage and soon life returned to normal.

Three years later...

I turned the corner of my apartment building. Uprooted trees leaned against the building. Huge tree branches were strewn everywhere as if someone had plucked them up and scattered them around. The electricity was still off, but rumor had it that the electric company was on our block. A week ago, the eye of Hurricane Ike breathed his fury through our home town. Some people sustained minimal damage, but others had lost everything.

I opened my apartment door. An audible sigh of relief escaped me. Everything looked okay. There were a few cracks in the windows, but the apartment looked great. I was relieved to be home.

A few days later...

I pushed an orange barrier out of the way so a steady stream of cars could enter the church parking lot. It was amazing how fast everything came together. The church building sustained damage, but we could use the parking lot. Just a few calls and the Red Cross arrived with food and supplies. A local corporation provided water and ice. Volunteers showed up. As usual, God did great work.

Tears stung my eyes. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.

Stop it, don't you dare cry! You have to be strong for them. Oh Lord, please do it again!

A car pulled up. I grabbed some supplies, breathed out a prayer and put on a happy face.

"Hi," I smiled, "How can we help you today? Are you hungry? Do you need water and ice?"

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This article has been read 611 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mildred Sheldon08/26/10
Thank you for a very poignant story. Hurricanes are disasterous and danger and all those that lost everything my heart went out to them, but the volunteers were amazing. I enjoyed this very much. Thank you for sharing and God bless.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/28/10
You did an outstanding job describing the disaster that ripped apart families and buildings alike. They say a hurricane is alive, it has a mind of its own and blows its fury where it wants to.
Gregory Kane08/30/10
There is some great energy in this entry. I love the resilient spirit of the main character.
One minor quibble would be that you used single line italics to denote both thoughts and movement of time. I think it would look better to the eye if you used some other method to mark the passage of time. Well done. This is good.
Virgil Youngblood 08/30/10
I remember hearing a person say, "I don't get tired of the work -- I get tired doing the work." You've demonstrated that clearly. Aother hurricane season is on the way -- best be prepared, just in case. Well done.
Sarah Elisabeth 08/31/10
Whew! What a touching journey. Great job!
Caitlyn Meissner09/01/10
Wow! This was a good read. It's amazing the way things can go full circle like that. You did a good job handling this story.
Mona Purvis09/01/10
I started this comment on my computer and it crashed, so I'll try not say too much just in case...LOL
Enjoyed your entry.
I think it would be good to switch the 1st and 2nd paragraphs. The 2nd one is a great hook.
Perhaps you might want to give your charaters names, the church as well. It would draw the reader in more.
keep writing.

Amanda Brogan09/01/10
This was written very well. I like the way you ended it with deja vu. Often we need God's help again and again to get through circumstances that we've gone through before.

On the critiquing side, although it's an awesome story, it could be a tad bit more on topic. Maybe with people struggling to breathe at the loss of their homes?

Well, at any rate, I think you did a great job with this well-told story. :)